April 28, 2006 - Wally Berg Arrives in Kathmandu
I have been flying Thai Airlines “TG 319” from Bangkok into Kathmandu for 20 years. So when I walked through the covered walkway across the freeway that separates the Amari Airport Hotel from Bangkok International Airport this morning I was feeling nostalgic about hundreds of great adventures that have taken place over the 3 dozen trips I have made to Nepal since 1986. That Plexiglas tube with the creaky floor that goes over 6 lanes of high speed Bangkok traffic (it is at least 35 kilometers into the center of the city where the traffic will slow to a crawl) has reliably carried me into a world of adventure, warmth, love, mystery and excitement for years; it has taken me to TG 319 for the flight to Kathmandu.
So the question on everyone’s mind is “are things normal in Kathmandu?” Well, I must remind you that Kathmandu has never been about “normal”, that’s why we have always loved it. Rudyard Kipling famously said, “The wildest dreams of Kew…. Are the facts of Kathmandu…”. If we can put the “normal” judgment aside I am happy to report that I flew into a relaxed city that I know well today. As someone who was in Nepal on April 6, 1990 when demonstrations led to the second time democracy got a shot in this Hindu Kingdom (the first time was 1959) I can report that there is a peaceful busy bustle about the city today.
Normal? Well, TG 319 was about 70% 80 % full. We are used to being wait listed on that flight this time of year, but then there used to only be 2 flights per week. Thai flies in everyday now; there are simply far more foreigners coming into this city than there were before 1990.
Normal? Landing at the Tribhuvan International airport in Kathmandu I was struck by all the airlines, Cosmic Air, Buddha Air, Sita and Yeti Airlines to name a few of the Nepalese carriers, Jet Airways from India and Gulf Air jets were on the tarmac as well. I can remember when Royal Nepal was it.
Normal? We used to play a game to see how far in from the airport we could drive before we were stopped by a cow in the road. Sad to say the cows do not fit on the streets of Kathmandu any more, there are far too many cars, and obviously the fuel to run them. I admit that I miss the days of 1989 when there was a serious oil embargo at the Indian border and we rode bicycles in the middle of Kathmandu’s busiest streets (dodging he cows of course).
Normal, in fact it is the adventure of Everest calls, the scenery, the people.
When I got off the plane today I saw the familiar grin of an old dear friend, John Gully, a mate from many years of expedition life, trekking and hanging out in the Khumbu. John was on the other side of the glass in the departure lounge for the passengers leaving for Bangkok today. He had been trekking to Base Camp with his Kiwi group and his face had the ruddy exuberance of a chap who had had days full of fun and grand times on the trail to Everest. It was great he mouthed to me as we high - fived one another through the glass.
Then when I stepped outside the terminal I saw Shittal, our favorite BAI airport greeter, she is also a real ace at taking care of details in the office. All our groups love Shittal and we have missed her during the year that she spent in China studying Chinese. Shittal and I drove the short distance from the Airport to the Hyatt Hotel, which overlooks Boudanath Stupa, the largest Buddhist temple in Nepal. Even thought it is still two more days before the BAI trekking group begins to arrive, the welcome sign for this season’s Base Camp group is already waiting at the Hotel.
Ang Temba, and Bal, our cook, were waiting at the hotel. Ang Temba just flew in yesterday from Lukla and reports that everything is great in the Khumbu and our friends along the trail are waiting to see us. Later Min came by, we all decided that with my jet lag and since we have plenty of time we will meet tomorrow to begin more catching up and planning for the trek.
Across Canada and US today there are 10 BAI trek team members going over their gear lists one more time and excitedly planning for their adventure. I can assure you that they will not be disappointed. Stay tuned for the stories here.
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